Course Details

Course Code COMP3421
Course Title Computer Graphics
Units of Credit 6
Course Website
Handbook Entry

Course Summary

This course teaches the fundamental algorithms underlying computer graphics in both 2D and 3D. It introduces students to an industry standard graphics API (OpenGL) and gives them experience developing graphical applications.

Course Staff

Lecturer in Charge:

Robert Clifton-Everest

Consultations: TBA

Course Timetable

The course timetable is available here .

Course Aims

This course aims to teach the fundamental algorithms underlying computer graphics in both 2D and 3D. The course also aims to introduce students to an industry standard graphics API (OpenGL) and give them experience developing graphical applications using Java.

Student Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will:

  • have knowledge and understanding of
    • modeling: the mathematical representation and computer implementation of lines, curves, surfaces, and transformations
    • rendering: the mathematics of projection, hidden surface removal and local and global illumination; the computer implementation of this in the graphics pipeline
    • how modeling and rendering work together in graphics hardware and software
  • be able to use OpenGL to write interactive computer programs to manipulate and render complex 3D scenes.

This course contributes to the development of the following graduate capabilities:

Graduate Capability Acquired in
scholarship: understanding of their discipline in its interdisciplinary context lectures, assignments
scholarship: capable of independent and collaborative enquiry assignments
scholarship: rigorous in their analysis, critique, and reflection tutorials
scholarship: able to apply their knowledge and skills to solving problems tutorials, assignments
scholarship: ethical practitioners all course-work by doing it yourself
scholarship: capable of effective communication tutorials, final assignment demonstration
scholarship: digitally literate everywhere in CSE
leadership: enterprising, innovative and creative assignments
leadership: collaborative team workers assignments
professionalism: capable of operating within an agreed Code of Practice assignments

Assumed Knowledge

The formal prerequisite for COMP3421 is COMP2511 or COMP2911.

For COMP9415 there is no formal prerequisite, but you are still expected to have the requisite knowledge.

Both undergrads and postgrads are expected to have a working knowledge of:

  • Programming in Java
  • Object-oriented design with interfaces and patterns
  • Basic linear algebra: matrices and vectors

Teaching Rationale

Computer Graphics is fun. You can use it to make cool games and amazing special effects in movies. So learning it should be fun.

Computer Graphics is hard. The reason why the world looks like it does is because there are gazillions of photons bouncing around between all the objects. Simulating all the photons and the properties of the objects is too hard to do, so we have to come up with mathematical approximations and clever algorithms.

So you are going to have to work hard to understand the maths and the algorithms. But then you get the reward of making pretty pictures. Which is even more fun because you have earned it.

Teaching Strategies


Lectures will be used to introduce theoretical concepts and will include exercises, demonstrations and live coding examples.


In week 1 there is an optional lab exercise you can do to get eclipse setup with UNSWgraph and work through your first graphics program. If you're having trouble completing the lab, there will be help sessions in week 1 where you can seek assistance.


Tutorials aim to clarify ideas from lectures. There will be a number of exercises set for each tutorial class. The aim of the class is not to simply get the tutor to give you the answers; the aim is to focus on just one or two of the exercises and work through them in detail, discussing as many aspects, alternative approaches, fine details, etc. as possible. You must be active and ask questions in tutorials. Ideally, students should run the entire tute themselves, with the tutor being a moderator and occasionally providing additional explanations or clarifications. Any questions that are not completed during tutorials can be used for self study and revision. Sample solutions to most tutorial questions will be provided at the end of each week.


Assignments are a very important part of the course. They allow students apply the techniques introduced in the course and the final assignment involves students working in pairs to create a significant application.


The online quizzes assess your comprehension of the lecture content throughout the course. They are all automatically marked.


Assessment will be based on 2 assignments and a final exam and is subject to scaling. Contributions are as follows:

Task Value
Quizzes 10%
Assignment 1 10%
Assignment 2 20%
Exam 60%

Assignment 1

This is an individual assignment

Released: Week 2

Due: End of week 4

Covers: 2D drawing and transformations

Late Penalty: 10% per day off the maximum mark

Assignment 2

This will be a pair assignment

Released: Week 5

Milestone 1 due: End of week 7

Milestone 2 due: End of week 10. Demo in week 11

Covers: 3D drawing and transformations

Late Penalty: 10% per day off the maximum mark for the final submission.


There will be 5 quizzes throughout the semester (worth a varying number of marks, but coming to a total of 10% of the overall course mark). They will be released in weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 and due on Sunday at 11:59PM in the following week. For example, the quiz for week 1 will be due on the Sunday of week 2.


There will be a two hour final exam at a time to be arranged, covering the entire syllabus.

The exam will be open book. Calculators and rulers will also be allowed into the exam.

A supplementary exam will only be awarded if you are unable to sit the exam due to illness or misadventure (see below)

Special Consideration

If you cannot attend the Final Exam because of illness or misadventure, then you must submit a Special Consideration request, with documentation, through MyUNSW within 48 hours of the exam. If your request is reasonable, then you will be awarded a Supplementary Exam.

If your work on assignments in this course is affected by unforseen adverse circumstances, you should apply for Special Consideration through MyUNSW, including documentation on how your have been affected. If your request is reasonable and your work has clearly been impacted then you may be offered an extension.

If you are registered with Disability Services, please forward your documentation to Robert Clifton-Everest within the first two weeks of semester.

Student Conduct

The Student Code of Conduct ( Information , Policy ) sets out what the University expects from students as members of the UNSW community. As well as the learning, teaching and research environment, the University aims to provide an environment that enables students to achieve their full potential and to provide an experience consistent with the University's values and guiding principles. A condition of enrolment is that students inform themselves of the University's rules and policies affecting them, and conduct themselves accordingly.

In particular, students have the responsibility to observe standards of equity and respect in dealing with every member of the University community. This applies to all activities on UNSW premises and all external activities related to study and research. This includes behaviour in person as well as behaviour on social media, for example Facebook groups set up for the purpose of discussing UNSW courses or course work. Behaviour that is considered in breach of the Student Code Policy as discriminatory, sexually inappropriate, bullying, harassing, invading another's privacy or causing any person to fear for their personal safety is serious misconduct and can lead to severe penalties, including suspension or exclusion from UNSW.

If you have any concerns, you may raise them with your lecturer, or approach the School Ethics Officer , Grievance Officer , or one of the student representatives.

Plagiarism is defined as using the words or ideas of others and presenting them as your own. UNSW and CSE treat plagiarism as academic misconduct, which means that it carries penalties as severe as being excluded from further study at UNSW. There are several on-line sources to help you understand what plagiarism is and how it is dealt with at UNSW:

Make sure that you read and understand these. Ignorance is not accepted as an excuse for plagiarism. In particular, you are also responsible that your assignment files are not accessible by anyone but you by setting the correct permissions in your CSE directory and code repository, if using. Note also that plagiarism includes paying or asking another person to do a piece of work for you and then submitting it as your own work.

UNSW has an ongoing commitment to fostering a culture of learning informed by academic integrity. All UNSW staff and students have a responsibility to adhere to this principle of academic integrity. Plagiarism undermines academic integrity and is not tolerated at UNSW. Plagiarism at UNSW is defined as using the words or ideas of others and passing them off as your own.

If you haven't done so yet, please take the time to read the full text of

The pages below describe the policies and procedures in more detail:

You should also read the following page which describes your rights and responsibilities in the CSE context:

Make sure that you read and understand these. Ignorance is not accepted as an excuse for plagiarism.

Course Schedule

The (tentative and subject to change) schedule of lecture topics is:

Week Topics
Week 1 Introduction, Getting started, Colour
Week 2 2D Transformations, Vector geometry
Week 3 Homogeneous coordinates, Shaders, Intro to 3D
Week 4 Depth, Perspective, Clipping, Meshes
Week 5 Illumination, Textures
Week 6 Curves, Modelling
Week 7 Transparency, Rasterisation, Particle systems
Week 8 Ray tracing, Radiosity
Week 9 Splines, Extension material
Week 11 Revision, Exam info

Resources for Students

There is no texbook for this course. You may find the following books useful as references:
  • Fundamentals of Computer Graphics by Erik Reinhard, Kelvin Sung, Michael Ashikhmin, Michael Gleicher, Peter Shirley, Peter Willemsen, Stephen R. Marschner, and William B. Thompson
  • Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice by Andries van Dam, James D. Foley, John F. Hughes, and Steven K. Feine

Note that neither of these books use Java for their examples, so should be viewed as references for the theoretical underpinnings rather than programming guides.

Course Evaluation and Development

This course is evaluated each session using the My Experience system. Students are also encouraged to provide informal feedback during the session and to let the lecturer in charge know of any problems as soon as they arise. Suggestions will be listened to very openly, positively, constructively and thankfully, and every reasonable effort will be made to address them.

Feedback from last year indicated that some students didn't like having quizzes due on Friday. This semester the quizzes are now due on Sunday. Students also stated they thought 3 hour lectures were too long. Under the new trimester system lectures are now 2 hours and occur twice a week.

Resource created Thursday 09 May 2019, 01:37:19 PM, last modified Friday 28 June 2019, 01:59:50 PM.

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